Tale of two bridges

Looking from Windsor Bridge. Image taken from Google Streetview

I can remember – several years ago – saying what a shame it was that we didn’t retain – and find a use for – the ‘beautiful’ circular metal frame that surrounded the old and redundant gas-holders on the now redeveloped former gas works site beside the River Avon.

The last gasometer

While they are but a distant memory, it seems there is now a proposal to erase even more industrial relics linked to that site.

B&NES is apparently inviting interested contractors to discuss taking down two bridges – either side of Windsor Bridge – which carry gas pipes over the river and are soon to be redundant.

One of the threatened bridges. Image taken from Google Streetview

They are sited within the Bath Western Riverside development where residential homes are replacing an area which once housed both the gasworks and the Stothert and Pitt engineering works.

Bath Newseum regular Roger Houghton emailed me to say:

“Shouldn’t these instead qualify as (at the very least) non-designated heritage assets?

The one over Midland Road appears to be a railway bridge that served the gas works (and which could be incorporated into the proposed new residential development).

The one alongside Windsor Bridge is on the line of Twerton Suspension Bridge. It also has gantries carrying lights, suggesting that it at one time carried people rather than pipes.

Surely a need for some research before these contracts are sought?”

He also sent his comments to other people and bodies he thought would be interested – including Kingsmead ward councillor Andrew Furse who replied:

Roger, good point. 

There should be some analysis as to the condition and ability for at least one of these bridges to be used as a pedestrian/cycle route? As a pedestrian using Windsor Bridge on occasion it is not a pleasant walk and the crossing facilities at both ends do not ‘join up’ and force the pedestrian to have to cross roads unnecessarily purely to assist traffic flow.

Cllr Andrew Furse

Using at least one of these bridges as a dedicated foot/cycle route should be investigated in my view.

Also reacting was Alexandra Best – Planning and Conservation Assistant at Bath Preservation Trust – who said:

Is there any potential for the inclusion of the Twerton Suspension Bridge within the River Line Project as a possible pedestrian-only access onto the river path from Windsor Bridge Road? This would use the existing access onto the river path, but may be a more inviting ‘gateway’ access for walkers.

Stuart Burroughs – Director of The Museum of Bath at Work.

But the biggest plea for saving ‘part of the disappearing heritage of Bath’ came from Stuart Burroughs who is the Director of the Museum of Bath at Work.

Addressing everyone who had commented so far, he said:

Both of these bridges were connected to the operation of the Bath Gas Works. The first to facilitate movements, by rail, from the south to north side of the river when gas producing retort houses were opened on the south side.

Looking towards the other threatened bridge. Image taken from Google Streetview.

What became known as the Windsor Bridge – originally a single track, bridge which was used by the gas works to support large diameter gas piping from the northern generating and purifying plants, to the gas holders on the southern part of the site.

As a consequence there is every reason – along with adaptive reuse for foot or cycle access- for these bridges to have some sort of preservation as part of the disappearing industrial heritage of Bath.

As any plans for site interpretation of the former Bath Gas Works site in unknown, or at least I am unsure of any, these bridges might form an element in the landscape interpretation, now that practically every other remains of this historic industrial site, have been removed.

There is a wealth of information on the Bath Gas Light and Coke Company which would inform any objection to their removal and the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society and the Museum of Bath at Work would support any campaign. 

We have a collection of material- photographic and documentary- at the Museum of Bath at Work, that might inform any detailed research.”

Finally, Mike Bone informed Stuart – and everyone else involved in the discussion –

“…that Historic England have now published guidelines for the interpretation and recording  of manufactured gas works which I (and David Martyn of Bristol C C) found useful in discussions on the Avon Street site in Bristol and the new conservation area around Silverthorne Lane. 

It’s a pity that HE did not get this out earlier as many holders and production buildings have gone of late.”

Here’s that report detail – just tap ‘download’